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Sugarcoating bitter facts

December 13, 2015

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LAHORE: A good cartoon entertains and informs the public without causing humiliation to anybody.

This was consensus among three members of a panel of cartoonists at a session on the second day of the International Literary and Cultural Festival organised by the Lahore Arts Council at Alhamra, The Mall, on Saturday.

The panelists included Javed Iqbal (Jang), Feica (Dawn) and Nigar Nazar, who claims to be the first woman cartoonist of Pakistan. Ms Nazar also moderated the session.

Veteran cartoonist Maxim was also invited but he could not attend the event because of health issues.

Ms Nazar opened the session by briefly describing various types of cartoon, including comic strips, serial and political cartoons, and their evolution into animated films which became hugely popular.

Javed Iqbal, who has been drawing cartoons on various social and political issues for about half-a-century, said when he joined the profession cartoonists like Anwar Ali (Nannah), Aziz and Zaidi were popular.

He said the political cartoon, under the influence of the West, used to be considered a thing of English newspapers only. “I was the first to introduce political cartoon to Urdu journalism,” he said.

Describing the job of a cartoonist, he said: “We have to sugarcoat a bitter fact and present it to the public.”

He said a cartoon left an instant impact on the viewer.

He said it was an irony that as a professional he thrived during the martial law regimes, perhaps because dictators were always very conscious about their public image.

He said during Zia regime his cartoons for an Urdu daily would draw immediate reaction from the authorities.

To a question from a member of audience, he said a cartoon was never meant to humiliate anybody and should be designed in such a way that the subject should also enjoy it.

Answering another question about the impact of his anti-India cartoons, he said they didn’t have a lasting impact as mostly these cartoons were about a current issue that subsides in a couple of days.

Feica said the cartoonists were a “rare breed of artists” which should be protected and taken care of. He said that he never humiliated anyone through his cartoons, rather his subjects also laughed at themselves along with others.

He thanked Mr Ataul Haq Qasmi, who also joined the session in the end, for inviting cartoonists, “a neglected lot” to the festival.

Moderator Ms Nigar Nazar told the audience how she used his comic character “Gogi” to disseminate social service massages and highlighting issues of women and children.

She said her drawings adorned buses’ exterior and hospital walls to educate the public about social issues.

A slide show of the panelists’ works was also part of the session.

Published in Dawn, December 13th, 2015